DonGeorge4TonyWheeler2It was such fun to hear Don George and Tony Wheeler in conversation at the 23rd annual Book Passage Travel Writers and Photographers conference in August. Here are a few highlights from the opening event:

Don George nominating Maureen and Tony Wheeler for the Nobel Peace Price, because they have transformed the way travelers engage with the world. “It’s gonna happen.”


How the practice of travel writing gives us

Don George 8-15Don “Wanderlust” George, Conference Chair at the Book Passage Travel Writers and Photographers Conference, left us with some parting thoughts as the conference closed on Sunday, August 17th (these short recordings were edited for length).

Celebrating our passion, generosity, wisdom, and wanderlust:


The world is a classroom:


Life is a sacred pilgrimage:


Thanks, Don, instructors, and our friends at Book Passage, for another wonderful conference!

PanioloCongratulations to Constance Hale—her piece about Hawaii’s paniolos was posted on TED.

So much has disappeared from the islands of my childhood. Will the paniolo be next?

“My infatuation with Hawaiian cowboys began on O‘ahu’s North Shore, a quiet district enlivened by big waves and show-off surfers. On Sundays we country kids would sneak to a rugged polo field laid out parallel to the beach. We’d ogle the Honolulu high society gathered under big white tents — men in navy sport coats and women in high heels, who’d sip champagne while they watched the matches. Prince Charles played there, and some jet-setting Argentines, but the polo players we rooted for were paniolos. They’d come from Maui and the Big Island, and they’d wield their mallets like ancient Hawaiians did their spears.” Read the rest of the article here

Tim-and-gang-after-BPHere’s a shot of my literary hero Tim Cahill and a bevy of beautiful admirers after the marathon that the Book Passage Travel Writers and Photographers Conference always is. He’s looking slightly startled, don’t you think?

BoatingPartyI enjoyed this New York Times article, Drawing Yourself into the Scene, about the way art and literature can make us more observant when we travel.

I’ve certainly found that taking notes, composing photos, researching a subject, and questing for anything all make me more observant and appreciative.

(And, as an aside, I remember seeing Renoir’s “Luncheon of the Boating Party” at a traveling exhibition—it was so beautiful up close that it made me cry!)

Americanflagphoto: RCB

This is from a 2013 Thought Catalog article; it remains an enlightening read. Includes such comments as:

  • Return policy
  • Free refills
  • American foreign policy is a very inaccurate reflector of public consensus
  • Philanthropy
  • President doesn’t automatically become the richest person in the country
  • How open Americans are about their shortcomings and always ready for self-criticism
  • Clothes washing machines
  • Buffets
  • Walmart
  • Obesity
  • Customer service
  • Impressive distances and poor public transportation
  • Rich musical history
  • The size of houses

jim benningJim Benning, travel writer and Deputy Travel Editor at, just taught a class on personal essay at the Book Passage Travel Writers and Photographers Conference. Here he tells us what he looks for in travel narratives. (These clips are edited for length.)

Jim Benning 3

Jim on finding the story and developing a narrative arc:


Jim discusses how he develops a narrative arc in his own work—for example, in writing Lust in Translation about his encounter with a Chinese prostitute who was trolling for clients. The story is great, and hearing Jim talk about it is even better:

TonyWheelerTony Wheeler, cofounder of Lonely Planet, spoke with Don George on the opening evening of the 23rd annual Book Passage Travel Writers and Photographers Conference. Here’s a snippet of Tony explaining how Lonely Planet got its name.


In his latest book, Dark Lands,Dark Lands Wheeler brings his inimitable wit and style to an exploration of some of the world’s most troubled nations, including Colombia, Congo, Haiti, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Zimbabwe, and Israel-Palestine.

HominyHear about travel to Charleston, South Carolina as the Amateur Traveler talks to Jen Leo and her husband John Caldwell about their many trips to one of their favorite U.S. cities.

AussiewelcomeRandom drawing for Facebook fans: Don’t miss this chance to win a two-week, all-expenses-paid photo safari across Australia. Paid airfare, meals and accommodations and photo safari provided by: Udesign Photography Tours.  The winner will be announced on Nov. 1, 2014 at Photo Plus Expo in New York, NY. Winner does not need to be present to win.


  • 5 Days – Kakadu
  • 3 Days – Uluru (Ayres Rock)
  • 6 Days – Sydney: Blue Mountains, Harbour Bridge Climb, Opera House, Bondi Beach

Fly Geyser

June 24, 2014 | 3 Comments

Fly GeyserHere’s an amazing sight that turned up in my email with no attribution:

“They could be pictures of another planet or the set of a science fiction movie. But it is in fact an amazing phenomenon created by accident in the middle of the Nevada Desert.

“The other-worldly images show Fly Geyser, a little-known attraction described as one of the most beautiful sights in the state. Located 20 miles north of Gerlach, in Washoe County, it was accidentally created in 1916 during well drilling.

RitaGoldenGelmanTwenty-eight years ago, Rita Golden Gelman gave up her home and most of her possessions to travel the world, connect with people, and learn about other countries. Here’s her TEDx talk on The Joy of Connecting.

Gelman has spent years promoting a “gap year” for experiential education for American young people. She mentions the American Gap Association, that certifies Gap Year programs.

June 25, 2014
7:00 pmto9:00 pm

It’s the most wonderful time of the year — Weekday “Don”derlust, where we dance, sing, drink copious amounts of champagne, and celebrate the birthday of Don George, editor, writer, and friend extraordinaire.

Oh yeah, and we listen to some great tales of travel too!

don-georgeOn Wednesday June 25, in honor of “Don”derlust, we have invited three fantastic readers to the podium at the Hotel Rex (562 Sutter Street in San Francisco). Read their bios below, and on our Facebook page.

Tales-to-Go-1Now live in the iTunes store: Travelers’ Tales’ new digital subscription service!

Tales To Go, a mobile publication for iPhone and iPad, delivers four inspiring, transformative travel stories every month, with no ads, flash, or fluff. The app is a free download and so is the first issue, which features prizewinning stories by Colette O’Connor, Ken Matusow, Lavinia Spalding, and Peter Wortsman. Get the app and sample the first issue, free!

“We’ve long thought there should be a digital collection of travel stories that could fit in your pocket and go anywhere, and would update automatically,” says Larry Habegger, Executive Editor. “When we couldn’t find it, we created it.”

LP-scribdScribd and Lonely Planet have joined forces. For an $8.99/month subscription you get access to more than 300,000 books, now including all the Lonely Planet guides.

September 21, 2014

SolasAwardsMarch 1, from Travelers’ Tales: Winners of the Eighth Annual Solas Awards for Best Travel Story of the Year were announced March 1, 2014 on by the editors of Travelers’ Tales. Grand Prize winner Bill Giebler collected $1,000 for “The Tea in Me,” his compelling story about travels in India where he sees his life revealed through the processing of tea. Lisa Alpine won the silver award and $750 for “Fish Trader Ray,” her quirky tale of Amazon adventure and the characters she met there. James Michael Dorsey and Keith Skinner shared the bronze and won $250 each, James for “From the Ashes,” his haunting tale of a Cambodian Buddhist monk who survived the Pol Pot genocide, Keith for “Inside the Tower,” his moving account of a visit to the home of the late poet Robinson Jeffers.

March 27, 2014
12:00 pmto4:00 pm
Photo courtesy Outward Bound

Photo courtesy Outward Bound

San Francisco adventurers Molly Blaisdell, Marybeth Bond, John Hamilton and Spud Hilton will be rapelling down the SF Hyatt Regency on Thursday, March 27, between noon and 4:00.

Outward Bound California’s City Skyline Challenge is expected to be an event like no other, giving participants the chance to experience an exhilarating 230 foot rappel from the roof of the Hyatt Regency at 5 Embarcadero Center. In boldly going Over the Edge, the hope is that participants discover that they are capable of achieving more than they thought possible.
It’s a charity event, and you, too, can give it a try; read more at 7 x 7.

“Roughly 5,000 years ago, a group of people, for some reason, dragged massive stones 140 miles from Wales to Wiltshire, England, arranging them in a series of concentric circles to create Stonehenge. For years, we’ve been trying to figure out what was remarkable enough about these rocks to make the long-distance journey worth the effort—particularly the massive bluestones, which at ten feet long and weighing four tons, must have been truly special to justify bringing them all that way.”

If this question has been puzzling you, check out explanation in The stones used to create Stonehenge have unusual sonic qualities.

don-georgeLast summer, Don George spoke at the TBEX blogger gathering in Dublin, Ireland. Now National Geographic Traveler brings us the quintessential tips Don offered in his TBEX talk: “The Quality Quotient: Creating Content That Engages and Expands Your Audience.” Don shares ideas in three helpful articles: before the trip, during the trip, and after the trip.

SwickStoryBucks recently published a Q&A with Thomas Swick, author of two books, a collection of travel essays entitled A Way to See the World: From Texas to Transylvania with a Maverick Traveler, and a travel memoir, Unquiet Days: At Home in Poland. Swick talks about the best writing advice he has received—and given, common misperceptions about travel writers, the prospects for career travel writers these days, and more.




Thanks to Dick Jordan at Tales Told from the Road  for the link to this article by Greg Oates in Skift: Marriott Jumps Into the Content Marketing Game, which all but promises a burgeoning market for travel content.

Did you know that Fast Company partnered with Mariott, or that AFAR Media partnered with Westin Hotels?

Marriott Hotels makes a somewhat surprising move by partnering with Fast Company, Mashable, and Wired to create branded travel content that could mark a turning point in hotel marketing.


November 11, 2013 | Leave a Comment

MaptiaThe Maptia travel blog site offers 13 tips for telling stories about places. My favorite compares writing to photography:

“Use different vantage points: As you would with your photographs, vary the focus of your writing and the pace of your story by using different vantage points. Imagine you are taking wide shots when you are describing the setting and landscape, middle-range shots for the context and colour, and close-ups for the detail and narrative. Switching between these different views will help you bring the story to life through your writing.”

waterslideYes, I know I missed the summer season, but I just came across this post on World Spa & Travel, and loved the water slides. What a great reminder that now matter what your topic, travel writing can encompass it.


moodmapWest Virginia is the most neurotic state, Utah is the most agreeable and the folks of Wisconsin are the country’s most extroverted, a new study says. Take TIME’s test to find out which state most suits you.

According to the study, the winners (or losers, depending on how you view these things) were in some cases surprising and in some not at all. The top scorers on extroversion were the ebullient folks of Wisconsin (picture the fans at a Packers game — even a losing Packers game). The lowest score went to the temperamentally snowbound folks of Vermont. Utah is the most agreeable place in the country and Washington, D.C., is the least (gridlock, anyone?).

SATW-awards-2013Huge congratulations to Mary Jo McConahay (freelance writer, author, blogger and documentary filmmaker), who won the 2013 SATW Grand Award: Lowell Thomas Travel Journalist of the Year! The judges comments included this note:

The best travel writing entices readers to be adventurous anywhere — from the remoteness of the tropical rain forest to the density of sprawling Sao Paulo. Mary Jo McConahay does just that in “Maya Roads: One Woman’s Journey Among the People of the Rainforest”

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